Monday, July 01, 2002

The Movie I Watched Last Night XXIV
Friday: Weird Science
This movie hit me in all the right places when I was 12 -- I wasn't very athletic, I'd just started playing around with the Apple II, and girls were still a mystery. I had forgotten that this was a John Hughes movie -- much less that Anthony Michael Hall starred in it -- and it holds up pretty well more than 15 years later. Robert Downey, Jr., and Robert Rusler shine as two white-bread, new-wave bad boys who aren't half as dangerous as they act. And Hall has some occasional moments of brilliance, particularly the stereotypical scene in the blues bar. While Kelly LeBrock did all she could to carry her role as self-esteem builder and moral teacher, the message of teen empowerment is largely lost, and Hall's last scene with Suzanne Snyder -- "I'm not really this cool. This isn't my car. This isn't my suit." -- falls flat. Still, worth watching for the uninformed portrayal of new wavers and computers, as well as the horrible character design of the monster into which Bill Paxton's character is temporarily converted. Oh yeah, Oingo Boingo did the movie's theme song: "From my heart and from my hands, why don't people understand my intentions?"

Sunday: How to Marry a Millionaire
Wow. Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe co-star in this man-trap, gold-digger romantic comedy in which three models share an apartment to lure wealthy men into marriage. Their plans aft gang aglay, but in the end, each ends up with her true love -- and Bacall's character unwittingly falls for a millionaire she believes to be a gas pump jockey. ("After we get off this ferry, I never want to see you again!") Monroe steps past her usual breathy vapidity and takes on a rather comic role as a nearly blind woman who almost always refuses to wear her glasses. She accidentally gets on a plane to Kansas City instead of Atlantic City, where she meets a man almost as blind as she is. And Grable, with whom I was less impressed, participates in some scenic skiing scenes supposedly shot in Maine. Egyptian-born Alexander D'Arcy stands out as the elder lover of Bacall's character -- their scenes together exhibit real tenderness even if sparks don't really fly between them. I forget why I rented this movie, but I'm glad I did. Funny stuff. Oh! Two irritations, however. As the first romantic comedy filmed in the then-new CinemaScope, the movie opens with a six-minute orchestral performance. I'm sure that might have been interesting in 1953, but if I want to see an orchestra, I'll go see an orchestra -- not go to the movies. And the scene in which the Fashion World models display newly designed outfits for Cameron Mitchell's character is a silly, stilted excuse for a fashion show. Nonetheless, Mitchell's closing line to that scene hit home: "I don't see anything I want here." Ouch, Bacall!

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